St. John's basketball cannot slow UConn's high-powered offense in Big East Semis

The Huskies put on an offensive clinic against the Red Storm to sweep the series
Mar 15, 2024; New York City, NY, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Cam Spencer (12) celebrates his
Mar 15, 2024; New York City, NY, USA; Connecticut Huskies guard Cam Spencer (12) celebrates his / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

It had all the pageantry you could have expected and when the ball was tipped, it was as intense as the do-or-die game it was. Despite the foreign nature of the semifinals of the Big East Tournament to the St. John's basketball program, that is what's expected on a night like this.

But in the end, UConn was just too good offensively for the Red Storm to stop.

Even when the Johnnies defended well, the Huskies would still get a basket and it all added up to a 95-90 UConn victory -- the highest scoring semifinal game in tournament history -- and a berth in Saturday's Big East Championship.

It looked like, however, the Johnnies were going to make a game of it at halftime. They had trimmed a 10-point deficit to just five, 52-47, at the break and got within two early in the second half, 56-54, but UConn would use a 15-2 run to get the separation it needed and not look back.

"Unfortunately, we just couldn't get a run," Rick Pitino said.

Tristen Newton, considered a snub for the Big East Player of the Year, was the catalyst behind the offensive masterpiece and the best player on the floor with 25 points, six rebounds, and nine assists.

He was one of four Huskies to score at least 10 points, as Cam Spencer poured in 20 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range.

The Red Storm had a chance to get within five points with 6:14 left but RJ Luis missed a turnaround jumper and the Johnnies allowed an offensive rebound to Cam Spencer, who hit a 3-pointer to push the lead back to double figures.

"One thing about Connecticut, and they do it all the time, you think you're in the game, you're up one or two at halftime...ten-minute mark, you're only down four or six, and they win by 25. Happens all the time, but it hasn't happened against us."

A similar scenario unfolded less than two minutes later when Alex Karaban followed his own miss for an old fashioned 3-point play, 87-76, with 4:15 remaining.

The closest the Johnnies could get was six points in the final minute before three Daniss Jenkins free throws with 3.2 seconds left.

UConn shot 57.4-percent from the field and 50.0-percent from 3-point line. It felt like they were one of a handful of teams that could've beaten St. John's on this night, who only committed five turnovers, and shot 45.1-percent from the floor and 45.5-percent from deep.

Jenkins did everything in his power to try and led the Johnnies to a win with 27 points while Jordan Dingle, the only other player in double figures, added 19 points.

"You score 90 points against the defending National Champions, I think you're doing a lot of things right."

Both Rick Pitino and Dan Hurley received technical fouls with 8:16 left in the first half. Pitino was complaining about the second foul on Joel Soriano and Hurley earned the technical as the referees were going to the scorers table and got into a war-of-words with Tom O'Grady, a longtime friend of the Red Storm head coach, who was sitting courtside.

St. John's will now await its NCAA Tournament fate on Sunday evening, which should see the Red Storm land its first bid since 2019.